As humans, we are obsessed with answers and with arguments. We’re constantly seeking information and we are always looking for the ‘right’ answer. If you’re anything like me, perhaps you even feign certainty on occasion. 😏

But the answers we seek aren’t always as important as the quality of the questions we’re asking. In the always poetic words of Krista Tippett, ‘there is something redemptive and life-giving about asking a better question’.

The quality of our questions can shape the answers we receive. If we ask combative or simplistic questions, it’s likely we’ll receive a combative or simplistic response. And the reverse is true: ask a generous or insightful question, and we’ll likely hear a generous or insightful answer.

In light of this, I recently found myself reflecting once again on the simple yet profound wisdom shared by James Hollis, that instead of asking ourselves, ‘will this make me happy?’ we would be better served by asking, ‘will this enlarge or diminish me?’.

We’re terrible at figuring out what will make us happy. We’re too prone to comfort—the ancient workings of our survival brain are based on security and control. If we ask, ‘will this make me happy?’ we’re likely to limit ourselves to the confines of a safe choice.

Rather, if we ask the question, ‘will this enlarge or diminish me?’ we offer ourselves a deeper exploration of a more intuitive answer based on our true values and goals.

Some examples of generous, expansive questions I’m asking myself:

  • Is my work sacred to me? Am I doing what I was born to do?
  • Do I feel like I’m making a difference/contribution?
  • Am I in alignment with nature and the earth?
  • Is there a story I’m holding that’s limiting me from fully owning my creative power?
  • Is there a dream, idea or stirring that I’m putting off, waiting for ‘the right time’?
  • Am I overlooking anything that’s important in my life?

I believe the best questions are an invitation inwards, and that—as Krista describes—‘draw forth searching and dignity and revelation’.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke